Solar energy: For Amrit Kaal in agriculture

Source: The post is based on an article “Solar Energy: For Amri Kaal in Agriculture” published in the Indian Express on 22nd August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 Major Crops – Cropping Patterns in various parts of the country, – Different Types of Irrigation and Irrigation Systems; Storage, Transport and Marketing of Agricultural Produce and Issues and Related Constraints; E-technology in the aid of farmers.

Relevance: Innovations in Agricultural Sector

News: India is celebrating the 75th Year of Independence and has entered into the Amrit Kaal toward 2047. It’s time to focus on the achievements of our farmers and agri-scientists in the last 75 years, and what more innovations (anusandhan) need to be made in the agri-food space by 2047.

India’s achievements in the agricultural sector since its Independence

India’s efforts led to boosting production and converting India’s food situation from “ship to mouth” in the mid-1960s to emerging as the largest exporter of rice in the world (21mmt in FY22).

At present, poultry and fisheries have the fastest growth, while it has been the slowest in cereal production.

There are government interventions in cereals through the massive procurement of rice and wheat. Further, most of the sub-sectors rely on market forces. But these sectors still perform better.

What are the challenges in the agricultural sector in the coming years?

Since Independence, India’s population has gone up by a little more than four times. It is likely to surpass China by 2023. As per the latest UN Population reports, India’s population is likely to be 1.66 billion by 2050. The biggest challenge will be feeding a country.

With the rise in low-income levels, people are likely to demand not just more food, but safe and nutritious food.

India has neglected the environmental consequences that accompany agricultural development in India.

The average holding size has been declining from 2.3 hectares in 1970-71 to just 1.08 hectares in 2015-16.

At present, cereals are the mainstay of Indian farmers. It cannot give high incomes to farmers even when their productivity is increased.

What should be the course of action?

In the next 25 years, we need to go beyond just increasing production. The focus must be on the food system as a composite entity. It requires addressing five dimensions: (1) production, (2) marketing, (3) consumption, (4) environmental sustainability, and (5) nutritional outcomes.

Ex-Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri raised the slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”. Atal Bihari Vajpayee extended it to include “Jai Vigyan”. Now, Prime Minister Modi has extended it to, “Jai Anusandhan”. Here, anusandhan, or innovation in agriculture can lead to an India which have a well-fed population, zero hunger, almost no malnutrition, climate resilience, and high incomes for our farmers.

It is time to wake up now and promote climate-resilient agriculture. There is a need to arrest the dramatic decline in our groundwater table, particularly in the northwest, rejuvenate our soils, and improve the air quality by stopping/reducing stubble burning and methane emissions.

India needs to develop carbon markets so that farmers can be incentivized to change unsustainable farming practices. This requires innovations in policies, technologies related to precision farming, as well as institutional engineering.

India needs to become a nation of innovators in the agricultural sector like Israel, Holland, and the US.

Diversification toward high-value crops is a must as we move forward. This can be done by building efficient value chains. Here, in addition to the public sector, the role of the private players can play an important role.

In 2016, Prime Minister had given a clarion call to double farmers’ incomes by 2022-23. This can be done with out-of-the-box innovations like “solar as a third crop” on fields. Solar energy can be bought by power companies and incorporated into the grid for distribution.

PM can use his social capital and powers of mobilization, as witnessed recently in the “Har Ghar Tiranga” campaign, for a “Har Khet Main Saur Urja” (solar power in every farmer’s field) project. This can help in promoting clean energy in rural areas, and double and stabilize farmers’ incomes.

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